The last year was an uphill battle for our healthcare partners, and it was an honor to support them in meeting every challenge as it came. We accomplished a lot together and I’m proud of the role Cisco and technology played in helping both patients and providers. I believe it’s important to leverage the momentum of upgrades and technology adoption to shore-up healthcare delivery across the UK for the long-term. However, after a year like 2020, while it’s exciting to start looking forward to the future of healthcare in the UK, I would be remiss to not to start by looking back.

The Early Days of COVID-19

While all of us were not quite sure what was happening in early March 2020, our healthcare teams were just a few days ahead, trying to brace for what the unknown would bring. When lockdowns rolled-in we helped 350+ trusts and Primary Care Organizations to move non-essential workers home with secure, remote collaboration. We installed collaboration platforms and expanded networking – temporarily waiving user and licensing restrictions – ensuring everyone was secure and connected ­as fast as possible.

Calls for the help started to overload the 111 service and capacities were reached within days. Our solutions teams were tasked with fortifying systems to allow responders to triage those calls effectively and deliver timely care to those who needed it most. We enabled an additional 1,000 extra homes agents, lessening the strain on existing 111 abilities.

Accelerating Acute Care

As the case numbers rose, so did the need for high-acuity care. We worked with our NHS partners to create a template for a dedicated COVID-19 hospital ‘Nightingale in a box’ – that could literally be established anywhere. Our aim was to create simplicity in design, deployed at speed and supported by Cisco TAC. Across the country conventions and stadiums, enabled with Wi-Fi connectivity, were home to temporary field hospitals capable of treating the sickest patients – utilizing networks, software, and medical devices usually reserved for top-tier ICUs. As those medical assets were rounded up, it was imperative to track them all, medical appliances, ventilators and more. We helped make all of this a reality through a cohesive strategy, built from the ground-up by our Cisco solutions architects.

The End In Sight

Finally, when we knew a vaccine was in sight the UK Health Service called on Cisco again. After the success of Nightingale, pop-up vaccination centres were next on the horizon. Working with our Healthcare partners the plan was to implement a robust network at up to 1800  non-medical sites, deploying the connectivity, security, and Wi-Fi networks needed to provide secure and streamlined vaccinations – with 600 in the phase one plan we agreed on a on cloud-based design which could be deployed at scale. This solution  was an integral part of the ongoing vaccination efforts across the UK.

What’s Next for Healthcare in the UK

While we’re buoyed by wide-spread vaccine distribution in the UK, COVID-19 continues. And so do the changes and challenges it inflicted on our health system; one that was already struggling. We saw unpresented virtual care adoption and ask how that can continue? We’ll have to play catch-up with recovery and the backlog of referrals as well as the care for those now dealing with long-term COVID effects. All of this will need a sustainable plan around cloud-based services.

At Cisco, we’re looking forward to the future of inclusive recovery and I believe the long-term viability of our system lies in further implementing the technology and connectivity COVID-19 forced us to embrace. We need robust, scalable platforms that can create insights and visibility as well as IOT asset management. Cloud-based health platforms will be key in taking the UK Health System forward. We know adoption of these types of solutions will ease the strains on our health system and COVID-19 has showed that it’s possible at breakneck speed.

So, yes, let’s think about what’s next for healthcare in the UK.

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Will Owen

Healthcare and Local Government Lead

Cisco UKI